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What a deal: house swapping, life swapping


That’s one of the first words Francine Antony typed in her 284-word house-swapping ad, and it’s the most effective word by far.

House swapping ignites the imagination, rendering the seemingly impossible possible with the swift click of a keystroke.

“Imagine having a business warehouse or ultimate garage on your own Country Estate with your family in Dakota County on 19 incredible acres,” Antony wrote.

A dream estate in Dakota County?
A dream estate in Dakota County?

In the past two weeks, the Northfield stay-at-home mom has heard from eight people who like the idea of having a capitalized “Country Estate.”

Meanwhile, Aaron Hanauer has been imagining San Francisco, a city he’s never visited but believes would make an ideal location to ring in his girlfriend’s 30th birthday — that is, if a resident there were willing to ditch her apartment for a week in his Minneapolis condo.

Hanauer has used HomeExchange and Craigslist to house swap, a concept he embraces because of the money it saves and “the expanded community you create.”

As a city planner, Hanauer said he’d rather experience San Francisco via an authentic neighborhood rather than a downtown hotel — which is exactly what he was offered by the computer programmer who e-mailed him:

“I live in the Mission which is a fun neighborhood, but not particularly fancy. It’s the center of the city’s Hispanic population, and also has a large homeless population and a fair number of drug dealers, etc. … Anyway, I’m sure I could be selling this better, but the Mission is what it is, and I’m not going to sugar coat it and pretend it’s the prettiest neighborhood in the city. I’d argue it’s one of the most fun, but that obviously depends on what you’re looking for.”

You can find whatever you’re looking for when you house swap, whether you’re yearning for the East or the West, itching to downsize or upsize, swapping for a weekend or a lifetime.

The practice was glamorized by the 2006 film “The Holiday,” in which a weepy Cameron Diaz sits at her desktop and trades her fractured L.A. life for a quiet Christmas in London.


The idea holds an added appeal on the heels of a wearying winter. How about a summer on Kauai’s North Shore? Or a summer in Soho? Or a relocation to a gated golf-course community in Orlando?

You don’t need to pin down the details in order to make an offer. One Oahu resident cast a wide net Tuesday, offering a “trade for any # days” in 20 some locations, including Fiji, New Zealand and Northern Minnesota.

Trading places, trading lives
Swapping homes is just the minimum. Many house swappers also trade cars. Others take it further. One Indiana family is offering up its home and livelihood on Craigslist, selling a five-bedroom house and a “quaint five and dime store” in a small town buffered by cornfields. The seller recognizes the stark contrast to urban life and presents that as a selling point: “to escape the hustle & bustle.” 

For someone who recently lost a job, a significant other or an affection for Minnesota, that online offer just might be the ticket.


Then there’s Ian Usher, 44, an Australian who’s selling his life on eBay. His life, as a package, includes a $400,000 home, a car, a motor bike, a jet ski, a spa, a big-screen TV, a two-week trial at the carpet shop where he works and an introduction to his circle of friends — everything short of his name, according to a Reuters report.

Usher says he had a great life, but a devastating divorce compelled him to start over. Completely. “This is part of clearing out the old and [moving] on with the new,” he told Reuters.

The eBay auction for his life begins June 22.

“On the day it is all sold and settled,” Usher wrote on his website. “I intend to walk out of my front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else at all, and get on the train with no idea where I am going or what the future holds for me.”


Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Steve Scott on 04/09/2008 - 02:39 pm.

    Christina, that’s an incredible story. I believe it’s going to find its way into the pulpit on Sunday. As the saying goes, that will preach.

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